LEIPZIG • Judging by Manchester United’s poor start on Tuesday, one might surmise that they were unsettled by Paul Pogba’s agent leading up to their 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig and exit from the Champions League.
But manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer refused to admit his team were affected by the midfielder’s agent Mino Raiola claiming the Frenchman is “unhappy” at the club.
United, who dropped to the Europa League, were punished for conceding early goals by Manchester City loanee Angelino and Amadou Haidara before Justin Kluivert put Leipzig 3-0 up midway through the second half.
The Red Devils pulled back two goals in the final 10 minutes as Pogba came on and contributed to an Ibrahima Konate own goal to make it 3-2 after Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty.
In an earlier interview with an Italian newspaper, Raiola said Pogba, 27, is in need of a “change of scene” after struggling to establish himself in four seasons at the club.
The United boss gave a terse reply when asked if Raiola’s comments had affected his side ahead of their game, in which they had needed only a point to advance.
“The squad is fine, they are a team and they stick together. As soon as Paul’s agent realises it’s a team sport and we work together, the better,” he said.
“That is the last thing I want to say about it.”
When asked if he had spoken to Pogba about Raiola’s comments, the Norwegian added: “You have to ask Paul if he is happy or not.
“I’m not going to speak for him. Paul is focused on doing his best for the team and when he’s here he’s working hard in training and just needs to focus on his performances.”
Raiola said the best solution was for United to sell the Frenchman, whose contract ends in 2022, in January’s transfer window.
After losing 3-1 at Paris Saint-Germain last week, Manchester United have conceded three goals in consecutive Champions League games for the first time since April 2003 (both v Real Madrid).
Pogba, who rejoined from Juventus in 2016, has started just half of United’s 10 Premier League matches this season.
Solskjaer instead blamed the loss on his side’s lethargic start.
“We didn’t perform well enough as a team,” he said. “We knew they would come at us and put crosses in the box and, unfortunately, we conceded two goals and never got going.
“We just didn’t turn up until they scored the second goal – then we started playing. I can’t fault anyone’s effort and we were close to getting the third, which would have been an achievement against a good Leipzig side.”
United next host neighbours City in the league on Saturday.
“As a footballer you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You can do for a few minutes tonight, but that’s it,” Solskjaer added. “We have a massive game on Saturday and we need to focus on that.”
Leipzig avenged their 5-0 trouncing at Old Trafford to the delight of their coach Julian Nagelsmann.
“It wasn’t easy to have had a 5-0 defeat in October, then to have to win the second game to go to the knockout stage,” said the German, whose team reached the semi-finals last season.
“We got the win today and I think it’s deserved. The win is very important for the boys so they realise that we were not a one-hit wonder last year (season), that we advanced again to the knockout stage.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS